Stingingly attuned to the tension between long-term love and last-minute misgivings, “Between Us” makes a familiar situation feel remarkably fresh.
For Dianne and Henry (Olivia Thirlby and Ben Feldman), a young Los Angeles couple celebrating six years together, the search for a new apartment opens an unexpected rift in their relationship. She wants to purchase a modern, spacious home in an upscale neighborhood; he wants to continue a bohemian downtown lifestyle — a vision he thought they shared. A stalled filmmaker in his 30s, Henry must confront not only his financial inadequacies but also something much more nebulous: his self-image.
A man shying from commitment is nothing new, but here the writer and director, Rafael Palacio Illingworth, injects small subtleties that enrich and complicate the emotional landscape. The couple’s devotion is never in question, but Henry, who fetishizes the infatuation phase of a relationship, is constantly mourning something he may never have again. And Dianne chooses to ignore how her comfortable background might contribute to Henry’s insecurities.
Throughout, the actors have a beautifully balanced rapport that prevents one from dominating the other. Feldman’s pleading eyes and indecisive body language lend Henry an endearing immaturity, and Thirlby’s gentle confidence makes Dianne’s hurt all the more heartbreaking.
As the couple try out romantic alternatives — he with an orgy-loving musician (Analeigh Tipton) and she with a married performance artist (Adam Goldberg) — the director holds the focus on the movie’s essential question: What do you do when the life you want is incompatible with the love you have?
(At Screenland Armour.)
Not rated. Time: 1:40.